I'm so old, it feels like I've been watching the Olympics ever since those ancient Greeks wrestled in the nude, foreshadowing gay pride for athletic muscular dudes.
Thus I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which were supposed to be the 2020 Olympics if Covid hadn't thrown a pandemic wrench into the gears of the games.
The opening ceremony bored me.
I figured that Japan would put on something to surpass the ceremony in China some years ago, which was a mesmerizing spectacle. But no, I had to watch pieces of wood being shuffled around because lumber is important in Japan, or something like that.
How about a few hundred Taiko drummers doing their thing? Or samurai slicing up pumpkins with their swords? (I'm available to direct the next opening ceremony, Olympic committee.)
Then I began to wonder if the Olympics were even worth watching in this summer of Covid. With the Delta variant destroying so many lives in this country and around the world, watching athletes run, jump, swim, and such almost struck me as irrelevant.
I wasn't sure, so I dutifully set our DirecTV DVR to record the prime time NBC Olympics program. Somehow, though, the DVR also has been recording the 5 am program, along with random other programs that I never bothered to figure out how to turn off.
Which I'm thankful for. Because I'd fast forward through the non-prime time Olympics programming and find an event that blew me away in a surprising fashion. Here's three examples.
As I was about to go to bed around midnight one day, I decided to watch the men's triathlon for a while. I tuned in to the concluding running portion of the event. The leaders were a Norwegian and two other men who looked to be both considerably younger than him and much smoother runners than him.
The announcers were critiquing the Norwegian's form. "He moves his arms so much, he isn't getting as much forward motion from his stride as he should." "The other leaders are biding their time and will pass him as the finish nears."
The gangly Norwegian with the horrible running style took off and ended up running at a 4:40 mile pace at the end of the triathlon, which also features swimming and bicycling. He was so far ahead of the two other guys as he approached the finish, he kept looking back in amazement.
A Reuters story says:
Norway's Kristian Blummenfelt backed his endurance to take the sting out of two young hotshot rivals as he delivered a devastating late surge to break clear on a sweltering run leg and take gold in a thrilling men's Olympic triathlon on Monday.
Blummenfelt was part of a huge group of almost 40 that came off the 40km bike leg together but looked anything but favourite among some young speedsters.
However, he dug deep to keep driving at the front as the group was whittled down to three, before surging clear in the final kilometre to finish in one hour, 45 minutes and 04 seconds to take Norway's first medal in the sport.
...Realising he could not be caught he virtually danced his way down the finishing straight, before collapsing, utterly spent.
This was my favorite Olympic moment so far. (Just noticed in the story that Blummenfelt is only 27 years old; he looked quite a bit older.)
Other Olympic moments that unexpectedly delighted me were women's rugby and men's archery.
I'm basically clueless about rugby rules. There's something called a scrum, right? And it appears that you score seven points for doing something and five points for doing something else. Whatever.
What mattered was how entertaining watching two women's teams go at it was.
Those women (I'm tempted to say "gals," but I'm afraid a female rugby player would kick my butt for doing that) are damn tough. It actually was better that I didn't know what was going on, because I could get absorbed in the sheer artistry of women tackling, pushing, scrumming, and such up and down the field until seven points or five points or whatever was scored when someone clawed their way across a goal line.
Not that I've ever come close to being in a bar fight, but if I ever was, I'd want a female rugby player to be by my side. Or better, in front of me, while I ran for the door.
Then there was the men's archery competition. Kind of like yin to the rugby yang. Very calm, cool, and collected. Because it's pretty clear that when you're trying to shoot an arrow with a very complicated-looking bow at a tiny target a long ways off, it isn't good to get all worked up about it.
Today I watched this Turkish guy, Mete Gazoz, win the gold medal.
I loved the care with which he and the silver medal winner drew the arrow back, paused a few seconds with the bow string seemingly touching their nose, or very close to it. and then releasing the arrow with great delicacy. If I could meditate like that, I'd be enlightened.
It's like the archers have to try really hard to hit the bullseye, yet while trying not to try. (That's the title of a great book, by the way, "Trying Not to Try." It's on my Taoist book shelf, not that I'm very capable of doing this.)